The Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) met on September 26th in the North Hall. The scheduled officer’s elections were postponed as EMCAC lacked a quorum. Chairperson Donna Scheeder steered the balance of the meeting through agenda items that did not require a vote.
Scheeder announced that the Finance Committee chaired by Tom Kuchenberg would meet in early October. This meeting is among a series of steps being taken by EMCAC and the Department of General Services (DGS) to move seamlessly through the process of submitting its FY20 budget as is required by the 1999 Eastern Market legislation.
Market Manager’s Report
Market Manager Barry Margeson reported overall Market revenues of $68,303 for July and $61,254 for August due to “slightly lower revenues from the North Hall.” North Hall revenues were $12,615 for July and $4725 for August.
Margeson stated that diminished revenues were likely to impact year end revenue with the Market falling short of $1 million in revenue to a now projected $990,000.
This disappointment notwithstanding, the Market continues on pace for its strongest annual revenues ever. Yet to be determined as DGS closes out the Market’s fiscal year is whether or not the Market will continue to be profitable.
Margeson pointed to the large number of “rainy weekends” and their impact on outdoor vending as another the reason for the slowing in sales revenue.
Margeson also updated social media reporting with 2253 accounts connected to Instagram and another 32, 668 Twitter accounts and 46,111 Facebook accounts as of the end of September.
Online Ordering and Pick Up
Margeson and Mike Bowers of Fancy Dairy Products are engaged in discussions about introducing an app, Craven, to South Hall merchants which would allow customers to order online and then drive to the Market for pickup with an expected pickup time of 18 minutes, including a possible dedicated space for short term parking.
While replete with possibilities for expanded business, Bill Glasgow of Union Meats pointed to one of the possible many kinks that may need to be worked out as a third party taking the order and the resultant “screw ups.”
The Eastern Market took a baby step with respect to validated customer parking with DGS having bought 48 stickers that can be used for validated parking when shopping at the Market.
DGS has arranged with Colonial Parking to accept these validated parking stickers at their surface parking lot adjacent to C St steps from the corner of 7th Street.
Parking is available at a reduced rate as long as the parking stickers last. The first hour will cost customers $4.
One issue raised by the Tenant’s Council’s Anita Jefferson was whether these are not spaces that the vendors would be using on weekends in setting up their stalls and whether or not vendors would be displaced.
Margeson assured Jefferson that this will not happen as the vendors arrive too early on weekends to be displaced by customers.
Left unaddressed is that although this parking is available for customers during both the weekdays and weekends, these spaces are rarely if ever available during peak shopping periods, especially weekends.
What parking is available and plentiful is directly under the surface lot and managed by Colonial with a capacity of more than 200 spaces which are generally empty on weekends. However, this parking is not part of the agreement.
Lease negotiations continue with South Hall merchants soon to enter their twentieth year without leases. An earlier appraisal by the Marcus Asset Group as part of the lease process was rejected by the affected South Hall merchants and EMCAC as wildly off the mark when it came to rents and its inadequate historical analysis of the Market.
The appraisal recommended that many rents double and in some cases nearly triple based on commercial rates and an assessment of the surrounding business community.
The merchants as part of the DGS appraisal process have been offered an opportunity for a second appraisal but they must choose from a list of pre-chosen or Certified Business Enterprises (CBE). These eleven approved appraisers are certified because they have done previous work for the District.
Even as the District has agreed to pay for the second appraisal, the merchants may yet decide to hire and pay for their own independent appraiser.
Scheeder asked, as the discussion concluded: “Who approves the product? EMCAC would like the answer. And a timeline as well.”
One of the “goals of EMCAC” according to Scheeder is to add capital improvements to the DC budget process as part of DGS’s own capital budget plan. The DGS budget is due for presentation to the Mayor by November 15th and EMCAC by way of its Finance Committee is attempting to have included as part of the capital budget any number of capital improvements as line items rather than their being paid for as part of operations.
The Market is entering its 10th year since the renovation and restoration due to the fire and its re-opening in June 2009.
Currently, because the initial HVAC installation was flawed and consequently suffered repeated breakdowns, a rented chiller sits behind the Market at a cost to the Market of $80, 000 with significant parts of the system currently inoperable or no longer operating as designed .
The cost of the Market renovation has been reported at $22.5 million dollars.
Monte Edwards, EMCAC’s go to guy for all things brick and mortar, has put forth a detailed report about HVAC needs going forward with the hope that it is incorporated into DGS capital budget items. DGS has allocated $34,000 for this analysis.
Among the Edwards’ common sense recommendations are the need for a “proactive maintenance program.”
According to Edwards: “It appears that current practice is to respond when there is a malfunction.”
A Market Loss
On a more solemn note Margeson reported the “loss” of Western Murphy who “helped out in a variety of ways around the Eastern Market.” Western, as he was known, “lived” in front of Rumsey Aquatic Center on one of the benches and kept an eye on the Market each night, greeting staff and merchants who arrived early with an overnight report. Margeson added that “regardless of his living conditions he was always kind and positive. He was a good guy. I will miss him.”